The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences honored UC Santa Barbara professor Ted Kim with a Technical Achievement Oscar.
Kim and three former colleagues developed wavelet turbulence software. The program allows film makers to create giant explosions and fireballs faster than the previous technology.
"People knew how to do it and they knew it was really expensive so it took forever to do," said Kim. "We figured out there's actually a quicker way to do it that artists will probably like working with a lot better."
Wavelet turbulence is being used in some of Hollywood's largest production including "Life of Pi," which is nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards.
Twenty-seven feature films have used Kim's software and that helped add him to a short list of academics to win Oscar gold.